This Is Us will be much lighter in season three, according to the team behind NBC’s hit drama. But that doesn’t mean the tears will stop flowing.
“We felt like at the end of season two, our family had grieved and processed the loss of Jack on a deeper level than they ever had before,” co-showrunner Elizabeth Berger shared during the Drama Showrunners panel at the Television Critics Association press tour on Wednesday. “This is a very hopeful season and a season about true new beginnings for everybody.”
With the new season kicking off in less than two months, the This Is Us producers revealed that the upcoming return will follow in the footsteps of its two previous season premieres, taking place on The Big Three’s birthday.
“We’ve done, in our first two years, we pick up on our Big Three’s birthdays, [and] we sort of like that. In a show that plays with time so much, there’s something very nice and grounded for everyone, so we are picking up with everyone turning 38,” co-showrunner Isaac Aptaker said.
Aptaker shared that a major part of Jack’s story in the upcoming season will revolve around his wartime experience in Vietnam. A significant component of Jack’s storyline will involve his brother Nicky, who died in the war. Producers were coy when asked who would be playing the character, but confirmed that the part had been cast.
“I can’t tell you who we’ve cast just yet,” Aptaker said. “We are going to be spending a lot of time in Vietnam. We’ve hired [Vietnam War veteran] Tim O’Brien, who is a novelist, to come consult in our writers’ room. We really wanted him in there to really get the story right.”
“It’s exciting for us. There’s something very freeing about being past the mystery of Jack’s death and moving into this new chapter and getting to tell a whole completely different kind of story,” Berger added. “It’s different than anything any of our writers have done in the first two seasons. To be, all of a sudden, immersed in the Vietnam War is very special and different.”
As for the writers’ intentions for the upcoming season, Aptaker hinted that they’re going to be breaking the rules a little with the format.
“A typical episode of This Is Us has three sibling storylines and then a past [storyline], and then every now and then we’ll devote one solely to one character. But this season, we’re really throwing that out the window and saying all bets are off,” he told a small group of reporters following the panel. “So maybe we’ll do an episode where every act is a different time. Maybe we’ll have something that jumps five timelines in an episode. We’re pushing the limits of what people can comprehend.”
This Is Us premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.